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First born as a simple appendix to Clifford A. Wright's bestselling A Mediterranean Feast (the 2000 James Beard Cookbook of the Year), Mediterranean Vegetables has grown up to be a stunning and useful guide in its own right. Part cookbook, part scholarship, part gardening guide, this A-to-Z reference encompasses the entire Mediterranean region and is sure to interest food scholars, those who grow vegetables, amateur cooks, food industry professionals, and foodies of every stripe, and open up the American kitchen to a whole new world of vegetables. Each of the more than 200 alphabetical entries--from Acanthus-Leaved Thistle to Zucchini--describes a vegetable; explains its origins, its culinary history, how to grow it, and where to get it; and provides recipes that range from simple to downright exotic.
Qarac bi'l-Tahina (Pumpkin Spread with Sesame Paste) is a pleasingly lighter and infinitely more intriguing version of the ubiquitous chickpea hummus, flavored, like its cousin, with sesame tahini, plenty of garlic, lemon juice, and freshly ground cumin seeds. The Syrian dish Bamya bi'l-Zayt (Okra with Olive Oil), flavored with 40 cloves of garlic, an onion, a bit of lemon juice, and fresh coriander, is made distinctly Middle Eastern by the pomegranate molasses that sweetens it. Carciofi con Mollica, or Artichoke Hearts in Citrus Sauce, harks back to the 19th century, when French-inspired Sicilian chefs of the aristocracy invented fabulous baroque recipes. The earthiness of the artichokes is drawn out by the tangy sauce, while salty anchovies and crunchy bread crumbs add welcome layers of complexity.
While most American cooks will never be able to get some of the vegetables and herbs listed (when was the last time you saw paper pumpkinseed or skirret at the local market?), the majority of the most popular vegetables in the Mediterranean--and of those included in Mediterranean Vegetables--are easily found in American markets. --Robin Donovan [via]